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Payback Feels Good for Lightning against the Penguins

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning paid back the Dallas Stars when they shut them out 4-0. You see, two days before that Monday game, the Stars embarrassed the Lightning 8-1 and payback was a must on Monday. Mission accomplished. Tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Amalie Arena to face the Lightning. Six days ago, the Penguins beat the Lightning 4-2 in a game at Amalie. Tonight is another quick payback opportunity for the Lightning. While the loss to Pittsburgh last week wasn’t the embarrassment of that Dallas loss, the Lightning gave up a goalie goal to the Penguins Tristan Jarry. No better time to deliver a payback with a win tonight for the Lightning. The Penguins are struggling right now as they are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy, coming off the shutout against Dallas two nights ago is in net for the Lightning. Jarry, who scored that goal last week, is between the pipes for the Penguins. Pittsburgh will be playing without Noel Acciari and Vinnie Hinostroza. We have the makings of a great Eastern Conference battle from these two teams neither of which have played to their expectations this season. 

First Period

As expected, this game opened with both teams playing close to the vest. It was tightly played with both teams getting a couple good looks to get the scoring going on this game. Just as the game was at the five minute mark, the first penalty of the game was called. Ryan Shea of the Penguins was whistled for a tripping penalty. This put one of the league’s best power play team on the ice with the extra man. 

A minute later, Victor Hedman playing in his 1,001st NHL game got off a great shot/pass from the high slot. Hedman hit the tape of Anthony Cirelli’s stick and the puck careened right past Jarry for the game’s first goal.

The remainder of the opening period had the ice slightly tilting in the Lightning favor. When the horn sounded to end the frame, the Lightning had the 1-0 lead and outshot the visitors 11 to 4. 

Second Period

The challenge for the Lightning in the second period is to build on the slim lead they have. Face it, the Penguins are one good shot from tying this game. Yes, Pittsburgh is struggling but prior to Monday’s game against Dallas, the same was being said about the Bolts. 

From the start of the second, the Lightning seemed intent on scoring the next goal. The newly formed second line of Cirelli, Alex Barre-Boulet and Brandon Hagel was flying so far in this game. As this trio headed into the Penguins zone, Cirelli dropped the puck to Hagel who maneuvered into a high scoring spot in the low slot. Just as Cirelli skated past Jarry, Hagel snapped the puck past Jarry’s left shoulder to give the Lightning a 2-o lead.  But wait! Pittsburgh challenged the goal for offsides. The goal was overturned on review and the Lightning were back to the slimmest lead in hockey. 

Despite the goal being overturned, the Cirelli line was leading the way. Working hard in all three zones and setting the tone for the rest of the team. Just past the seven minute mark of the middle frame, the Penguins put the Lightning back on the power play. Having scored already, you could feel the Lightning power play was clicking. Sure enough, Nikita Kucherov one times a shot from his office in the dot to put the Lightning up 2-0.

Second Period (cont.)

Depth scoring showed as third liners put on a backchecking clinic leading to an Eyssimont shot that Jarry can’t control and Tanner Jeannot jumps on the puck and backhands a shot past Jarry to put the Lightning up 3-0. This goal was the result of hard work and team defense. All three forwards were limiting the space as the Penguins were trying to get the puck out of their zone. 

They managed to get the puck to the neutral zone but the Lightning defense stifled their first pass. Taking the puck away, Luke Glendenning tapped the puck up and Jeannot won that puck battle and Eyssimont picked up the puck. Gliding to the center slot, Eyssimont snapped a shot which Jarry stopped but couldn’t control. Jeannot jumped on the loose puck and lifted a back handed shot past the Pittsburgh goalie.

Third Period

The only remaining challenge for the Lightning tonight as the final period is about to begin is can they close out this game? The game in the second period was more even than the first. Both teams notched nine shots on goal. The Lightning converted two of those and Vasilevskiy stopped all nine shots he faced. Pittsburgh has too much offensive talent to lay down thinking this game is in the bag. 

In the first five minutes, the Penguins sustained their best offensive time in the game. They registered the first seven shots of the period. Clearly, they were thinking: if we’re going down in this game, we’re going shooting. Vasilevskiy stopped everything they threw at him. He had to because it was still another couple minutes before the Lightning could get a shot of their own this period.

In the last half of the period the Lightning negated the Penguins offensive attack helped by another Pittsburgh penalty. Even though the Lightning didn’t capitalize with the extra man, the team clearly got a boost from their offensive zone time. 

Pittsburgh did get a power play opportunity with a little over five minutes left in the game. This power play hasn’t scored a power play goal in their last 32 chances. With about 40 seconds left in the penalty, Hedman was whistled for a trip to give Pittsburgh their best chance to take away the shutout from Vasilevskiy. 

On the ensuing 5 on 3, the Lightning killed off the first penalty and slowly and methodically killed off the second penalty. Now we are down to the last two minutes of regulation. Can Vasilevskiy and his team get a second consecutive shutout? Nope. With 53 seconds away from the shutout, Pittsburgh scored the flukiest goal seen in a long time. Jake Guentzel was prone on the ice as a puck misplayed by Vasilevskiy behind the net found Guentzel’s stick. All Guentzel could do was flail his stick and knock the puck towards the blue paint. This was a seeing eye puck as it glanced off Nick Paul’s skate right into the unattended net. This gave us the final 3-1 Lightning win. 

Three Stars 

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy – Second consecutive win. Saved 23 of 24 shots he faced for a .958 save percentage.  
  2. Nikita Kucherov – 1 goal and 1 assist. League’s leading scorer adds two more points to his season total. 
  3. Anthony Cirelli –  1 goal and centered the line that set the tone for the team tonight.

What’s Next

The Lightning are off for a five game road trip. First up, tomorrow night at Nashville against the Predators. Puck drops at 8:00 pm.

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